The double edged sword of tourism in Thailand
Inspired by a article by Khiri Travel about Truths, Trends, Wishes, Predictions and New Destinations I thought lets think & write about that myself, what resulted in my Double Edged Sword of Tourism in Thailand. All based on my personal experience of traveling since 1985 in South East Asia and mainly in regards to nowadays Nan province in North Thailand. Rereading what I just typed ... should I promote Nan province in North Thailand?
1. The Truth
- Does the truth exists? Personally I do not think so but in regards to the past one could indeed say follow your heart instead of your bank-account. It is how I did end up traveling & living in South East Asia. If you work with love then you will be living happier and create beautiful things that again will make other people happy.
- At limited times a destination might be a building or a view, but in the end it is all about human connectivity. I can stay at a stunning hotel or restaurant but if the staff is unpleasant then they will never see me back. You can see this in Nan province with homestay's where the owner is your host and provides you with a smile and local knowledge. A place where you become a friend, a place where they know your name.
- Not only say it also do it! In the travel business there is a lot of talk but in the end not so much doing. Many times I read a website of a travel company and think "Really?". Green Environment, Carbon Footprint are beautiful words used in the travel business but lets be honest most times it begins with flying more as 10.000 km by air plane.
- Travel-wise in Thailand there has been the rise of Chinese travelers (and currently a partly decline) but overall Chinese travelers will change the landscape of traveling in Thailand and all over the world. But not yet in Nan province, although the many direct flights to Chiang Rai and the road connection to Luang Prabang in Laos will help Chinese travelers to find Nan province.
- Independent Traveling will continue to grow, also with Chinese travelers. Currently we see that in Nan province with Thai tourists, but Western & Chinese travelers will come also. It will also result in younger travelers creating a market for hostels & outdoor adventure in Nan province.
- Over-tourism seems a speciality in Thailand and unfortunately Nan province has all the marks of the first steps of over-tourism, currently in the form of selfie-tourism. Temples are changed in a tourist business, rice fields are changed into a selfie-location. New (Boutique) Hotels, Resorts, Guesthouses and Homestay's are popping up everywhere in Nan province. But over-tourism at some destinations will create new opportunities for a niche market of other type of travelers. You can see that in Nan province where people are going to more difficult to reach places, to exclusive places.
- Advertising on social media with stunning photos, but are they genuinely representing the destination? With the technique in hand it becomes easy to connect via social media with the all world and everyone wants to be liked. Technique creates stunning photos, even with drones. I see photos of Nan province and I think "Where is that?" to realise I have been there but did not recognise it on the photo. Brochures and websites speak about "authentic experience" while in reality a pickup truck brings travelers to a set-up hill-tribe village where tourists arrive every 10 min. But people will not be buying this anymore, people know more and accept less.
- The Thai government sees tourism as one of the solutions for a growing economy. Hopefully they will learn to look further as numbers, to look to the environment & long term costs. And look to the effects to the local communities. Hopefully Nan will not become a Chiang Mai or Pai. Or worse a Koh Samui.
- As Nan province is locked in the North and East by Laos it would be great to have easier international traveling options via the now only 1 International Border Crossing. Easier like in getting a visa for South East Asia and no restrictions of crossing the border by car, motorbike or bicycle.
- Although it is in one way to the benefit of the local community but improving the infrastructure also means travelers can go beyond the places they go now. And that is not always a good idea. So hopefully the government will find the right balance, infrastructure for the local communities but limited tourism.
4. New Destinations
- Can there always be new destinations? Do we leave a trail of wasted destinations? Thailand has some formerly famous destinations that are in touristic despair but some are coming back with a new type of traveler. Nan province is a good example of that, as Nan was long time ago the place to go for young Thai people to go hiking and do things they could not do at home. Now we see richer Thai people coming in their SUV and they want a nice boutique resort or a local home stay to experience the life they are missing in the Big Mango.
- New destinations? Yes I think city people will more and more be looking for an true local experience in a way they associate with the good old life.
- New destinations in Nan province? Yes there are many National Parks with options for hiking and exploring nature. There are many destinations in Nan province where nature meets culture. Destinations that are not yet found by foreigner tourists.
- Tourism in Nan province will be growing, both in numbers as in type of travelers.
- Government guidance and self-control will be needed to prevent that over-tourism will destroy the slow life of Nan.
- The number of hotels, resorts, homestay's, guesthouses, restaurants and travel agencies will be growing in Nan province.